Tuesday, March 25, 2008

038. Marc by Marc Jacobs, redux.

With the recent explosion of fashion qua pop culture, many designers have jumped on the bandwagon to create diffusion lines. After all, everyone wants something with a designer logo on it, and designers can easily take advantage of this by creating a cheaper line. There are only so many wealthy clientele who can afford your $3000 dresses; why not make an additional profit? It's a quick fix for both consumer and producer, although I myself am getting a little disturbed at how mainstream designer goods are getting. The label isn't worth shit if you can buy a piece of Mizrahi on sale for $3.29. (That decimal point is not displaced. Although, diffusion lines usually range from the $90-$600 price range these days, and Isaac Mizrahi for Target isn’t technically a "diffusion" line, just a sponsored collection.)

Marc by Marc Jacobs has been a source of frustration for me for quite a while. I used to really adore Marc Jacobs. His collections were fantastic a few years ago, he was definitely one of my favorite American designers.

But my dislike of Jacobs' most recent work is a different subject entirely. I couldn't stand Marc by Marc Jacobs when it first started showing, for two reasons. First, the line wasn't even designed by Jacobs, so what was the point? Okay, so this apparently happens a lot - but honestly, it didn't seem to have any relevancy to the real Marc Jacobs line! It was just him stamping his name onto these cheaper, unrelated outfits! Second, the clothing and bags were literally cheap. I've been to MMJ stores, I've seen the clothes in person, the buttons are badly sewn, the seams are nothing like regular Marc Jacobs RTW.

I also thought most of the clothing was heinously ugly.

But recently, MMJ has been shaping up. Every season I notice more things I like. The prices have begun to reflect the improving quality and taste of the garments; I also like the bags more. I do find it hilarious that the so-called MMJ shoes are just as expensive as, say, a pair of Miu Mius. That will never cease to amuse me. Anyway, the clothing and bags are achieving more recognition as times goes on.

From MMJ Spring 2008:


Um, how fabulous is this outfit? It’s quirky and adorable and all kinds of pretty. I must have it!...After I sell my soul on eBay.

Available here at ShopBop

After traipsing around Neiman’s, Bloomie’s, and Cusp all evening eyeing the MMJ displays, I finally tried on this dress and fell in love. Well, I already knew I wanted it. But now I know I have to have it. "Sale" being the operative word here. If only ShopBop would make some obscene error and accidentally mark down this dress to 75% off, or better, 95% off, or…well, I can dream, damnit.

I know that dress has been splattered all over the pages of every fashion magazine that has enough revenue to print in color, but whatever, you’re seeing it again because it’s AMAZING.


And finally, for a peek at fall's MMJ collection. Also looking quite good. Some designers have been focusing on the tailoring of garments lately, or the texture or shape of the clothing. Marc by Marc Jacobs' most noticeable feature is patterning. And who doesn't love a smattering of polka dots on a eentsy little black-collared cream blouse and criss-cross stitching on a pencil skirt?


Thursday, March 20, 2008

037. To file under blunders: The Baroque.

I started keeping an eye on Miu Miu back in Spring 2006. It was the little V-neck star print dress that captured my interest. I’ve always thought of Miu Miu as a quirky, sporty-girly brand with a lot of twists and turns in it. There are some consistencies in design, but the label seems more like a stream-of-consciousness project for Miuccia. Every season, I have to re-evaluate my opinion of Miu Miu, more than I would for some of my other favorite designers.

This spring, Miu Miu has decided to reuse the baroque ornamentation from their Fall 06 shoes. (I notice this, because I was obsessed with the collection and eventually bought the below shoe in patent red.) Whether corporate is just being manipulative, trying to reel in more profits by creating a new shoe with some of the old hallmarks of the original, I don’t know. It’s like the ugly stepsister of the first shoe. It’s disappointing that they would take such a beautiful baroque-inspired creation, strip off all the patent leather that was its hallmark, and rework the wood carving into a shoe utterly devoid of personality.

Style.com; Net-A-Porter.com
NOTE. I apologize most sincerely for the poor quality of
this image due to lack of Photoshop on the work computer.

It’s a spring shoe, people, not a lump of deadwood. This thing needs color! If I were given the opportunity to redesign the shoe, I’d paint the heel and the toe wedge gold or silver (with the same burnished feel). Then I’d market the shoe in several different colors of leather: white, light pink, and light green, with the option of patent leather for the white. And I would eliminate those glaringly dark threads used to sew the leather. I HATE when the stitching is ten shades darker or lighter than the leather. I know the Chloé Edith bags sport this design and are pretty popular, but I’m not appealing to the people, I’m appealing to you, Miu Miu!

For shame.

Miu Miu floral carved sandals, available at Net-A-Porter for $550.

Friday, March 14, 2008

036. Fashion qua art. A heavily parsed and simplified thesis.

A lot of people live, as I like to call it, in a "satisfied" way. They have a few simple goals, to get promoted, to have a family, to achieve certain personal accomplishments, these sorts of things. They don't have an interest in looking at the world in a different way or broadening their understanding of how the world works. They are basically content, confined to dissatisfaction as they comprehend it within their own small world. And that's not necessarily a bad thing.

Unlike such people, I feel that my primary calling is to acquire knowledge; to grow intellectually, continually. I don't believe that a state of nirvana can be achieved during one's lifetime - rather, that such an ideal is something to be striven for but never attained. And as I attempt to comprehend the bigger picture, I have come to the realization that there is no one way to acquire valuable knowledge, nor should only one conclusion be drawn from a collection of data. Therefore, intellectual growth should not have a road map (there can be no how-to book on how to grow as a person) and all people's discoveries are equally valuable to the extent that they help lead up to an overall better understanding of the world.

I've read a small number of published articles intellectualizing fashion lately, which I have enjoyed. Having graduated college an English major, I've developed the ability to intelligently dissect any given work of art. And what I have found, is that you can draw as intelligent a conclusion from a Monet as you can some unknown artist's painting that is selling on Etsy. Famous paintings are often only regarded as brilliant because we believe their creators to be brilliant. But as for ourselves as observers, we are able to derive just as much meaning and metaphor from a blank canvas with a swipe of black paint on it as we should a Da Vinci painting. Hence, modern art. Does the former require as much technical skill or intelligence to create? No, but that does not mean we cannot use it as a stepping stone in our own intellectual growth. We learn something from everything.

OMG TEH AWESOME: MyPrestigium.com

In any event, whatever you think of my theory, since you are reading this, I think you will agree with me when I say that fashion is deeply underestimated as an artistic movement. Just as artwork is entrenched in the culture within which it is created, fashion both reflects the present cultural climate and helps push culture onwards. This process of reflection and growth is vital to the evolution of society. Just as we use the same words again and again in different combinations to form unique, new sentences, designers use fabric again and again to form new creations; even repetition and mimicking has its own significance. As I complain about how H&M does nothing but rip off "real" designers, how does this give me a better understanding of how the world works? What does it tell me about the objectives of people in our society--why have H&Ms been so successful? From an (attemptedly) detached standpoint, should it be? What would have to be different about our culture in order for H&M to fail?

Fashion has a unique position in the world because it is a part of our daily life, yet it is also an artistic expression. The current debate about models being "too thin" to be good role models is interesting because it illustrates that models are no longer as behind the scenes as they used to be; fashion shows which used to be only open to the elite of the fashion world are now open to the public through the aid of sites like Style.com. Models have always been thin, simply so that they do not interfere with the flow of the clothing. (Those who are not thin, serve some other purpose in promoting the clothing.) In general, the tallness and thinness create the effect that they are godlike, elevating the clothes, so that people long to buy them to also achieve deification. And the models themselves are essentially meant to be nonparticipants in the "ordinary" world bearing these covetable commodities, in the process also becoming an ideal which we long to attain.

But do you not think that the recent, intensified focus on (and obsession with) model thinness is a product of society's increased fixation on weight? As the statistically "average" person gains weight in Western society, the divide between him/her and the ideal posited on the runway becomes even more pronounced, in which event it garners attention. The fact of the matter is that models should not be acting as role models in a society that already objectifies bodies to an unhealthy extreme. And perhaps that's why this is happening in the first place. Plus, the presence of fashion in pop culture is increasing, so we are focused on the bodies advertising the clothing.

We can never fully separate the model parading the runway wearing couture from the woman who goes into a store and buys a shirt. Clothing is both art and utility. It was designed to be worn for people. Yet we also celebrate the beauty of clothing that is a statement in itself. This is the sort of quandary that continually tries to divorce idealism and reality. And this amazing contradiction is one of the things that I find fascinating to ponder about fashion.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

035. Stomping on all the competition.

Remember how just the other day I was commenting on how shoes have run rampant lately? How the most unusual constructions have graced the catwalk this year?

Well, the Rick Owens is the king of all rocker-chic boots for FW08. I've never seen such a boot. Remember when you used to rollerblade around the block when you were a kid? How, in order to slow, you leaned back on the rear brake?

I can't see anyone safely rollerblading in a heel this high, but these are definitely reminiscient of those childhood rollerblades...revamped and made uber-cool.

Jean-Luce Huré for The New York Times

Here's another pair...these things are ridonkulous. (And I only use that word in times of extreme need.)


Overall, the collection was very dark and interspersed with leather and prominent zippers piecing the constructions together. I genuinely think this is one of the most unique collections I've seen. Space Age meets Hell's Angels meets Aragorn. It's sort of Sin City-ish.

Which is never a bad thing.


Tuesday, March 11, 2008

034. Busted!


So, Paulo Melim Andersson's brief career as Chloé's creative director has come to an end. I don't have the full scoop but it's my assumption that he was fired, not that he actively chose to leave, unless it was mutual.

Too bad for him. Don't get me wrong, I think he did a wonderful job at Marni, and I was really cheering for him when I saw the first collection he did at Chloé. But after the initial high faded, I realized I was still mourning the loss of Phoebe Philo, as well as her predecessor Stella McCartney. I think that his most recent collection - FW08 - was getting closer to what I think of as "Chloé," so I wonder when the bigwigs made the decision to sack him; maybe he was diverging again when starting next year's spring collection, I'm really not sure. I do know that his launch collection was vastly different. One does not associate Doc Marten-esque boots with Chloé. Indeed, one can only reinvent a label so much before it retains no trace of its core identity. I don't condemn Andersson's style, I just don't think it has much relevancy to what has been titled the "Chloé woman."

Andersson will be replaced by Hannah McGibbon, who has worked for Chloé before under the direction of Phoebe Philo. Since I always had a great deal of respect for what Philo did for Chloé, I'm delighted by this change and hope that McGibbon will be successful in healing the rupture that has formed in the eminent fashion label.

Here's a recap on Andersson's Chloé collections, from first to last:

Fall/Winter 2007/8


Spring/Summer 2008


Fall/Winter 2008/9


Monday, March 10, 2008

033. LV a Go-Go.

I was not a fan of Louis Vuitton last fall. My mouth gaped open at the heinous bags embossed with a comedian's misogynist jokes; the procession of nurses' outfits; and weird veils that matched nothing. I still frown every time I see advertisements for those ridiculous, awful bags (Who approved them? What poor soul would unknowingly wear them?).

The 2008 fall collection rekindled my love for LV. The collection performed a complete 360. It showcased luxury garments in agreeable pastel hues (perhaps as a female submissive response to the collection of yesterseason? Sigh. I am left wishing the memory of SS08 could be erased from my mind. If only).


This coat is reminiscent of old-world elegance. The shape is not modern but is tastefully done for the twenty-first century, and looks delightfully warm. During these times of unpredictable weather, one must be prepared for sudden shifts toward freezing temperatures; in which case, I will be wishing that I owned such a beautiful coat.


I love this one because it is effortlessly chic. The colors in this collection are just great! (Although I cannot for the life of me understand why this is a fall collection. There was a significant amount of black, but whenever I look at the pastel outfits, I am instantly reminded of Easter baskets.)


I was sincerely terrified by this picture and hope that this is the extent of the iceberg that is way-too-high-heeled shoes. I have enough trouble walking in my 5.5" Miu Miu baroque platform wedges. Perhaps these monstrosities are, as in days of old, just for show and only meant for the runway performance.


A lot of people may be dismayed to see what they regard a boring handbag in a drab color. I for one am enjoying this reincarnation of understated elegance. I like this collection, in which wealth is recognized primarily in the fine tailoring and design, where there is no need for logos to be displayed so glaringly. It brings me back to the days when ready-to-wear did not yet exist and Mademoiselle Chanel was yet a milliner... *cough* Not that I was alive then. But those were golden times.

In any event, I vastly prefer this subtle take on the LV logo to the usual thing - that horrid tan and chocolate patchwork mess that is replicated ad infinitum until it has graced street kiosks in cities worldwide.

032. Falling flat.

I hate to be repetitive, but the fashion this spring has been unusually bad. There have been a few good ones: Alexander McQueen (although it rested rather heavily on outsider-designed hats), Ralph Lauren, Givenchy, Moschino. But I have to give it to Nylon for making the best of a bad situation by picking the best of the worst to showcase and doing a damn good job with photography. Other magazines (whom I shall not deign to mention) have spectacularly failed in piquing my interest this season, interspersing vile editorials with humdrum print ads. Now that the screenwriters' strike is over, have the design teams for major magazines taken their place?

But I do have to admit that no publication is to blame for the shoddy fashion jamming up the catwalks. A few interesting designs here or there, but I'm not going to defend the bullshit. Anyone who tells me "We decided to break it all down and start at the bottom so we can build ourselves up again." - yeah, great idea. You've just created the fashion equivalent of the amoeba. Why don't you take us right on back up the evolutionary chain so I can wear something pretty again.

In essence, from what I've seen, many spring collections have tried to rest on flashy colors that border on radioactive. The shape and detailing on garments is minimal. That’s okay because minimalism can be chic, but it’s annoying when you don’t have that one unusual piece that stands out from the crowd. Shoes are going to be the saving grace of fashion this spring.

Now, about them shoes. A fashionable outfit depends on contrast (currently: drab clothing vs. interesting shoes), and I’ve noticed that as heels have risen in height (I believe we will be walking on virtual stilts by 2010 if this trend continues to grow – no pun intended), they’ve also risen in creativity. A little while ago, bags were the It accessory. They were and always will be a fab brag piece to flaunt, but shoes are fast returning to their spot as the collectible item of choice. Let me see if I can rack up a few examples.


Here is a Chloé shoe from next fall. It is certainly something to look at. Not only is it produced in a vivid aquamarine, the front is plastered with some exotic variant of a leaf. I don’t know if this is a hail to environmental campaigning (there’s been even more plant-oriented clothing around lately, and not just because it’s spring). But this is a different take on footwear. Normally you’d just see a shoe that matches or complements the more extraordinary fabric, but this is the uniting component of the outfit.


Prada’s token spring heel is even more flamboyant. I must say this shoe is much more aesthetically appealing (to me), but it is perhaps even more extreme, with the heel radically altered to form the shape of a flower. The shoe is practically becoming the staple of the collection, whereas Prada’s shirts float on ethereally by.


Marc Jacobs’ latest shoes are bizarre. That’s all. They’re just bizarre; and they’re a disaster waiting to happen. That isn’t to say I don’t like them. I enjoy the exotic birds of fashion. But these shoes are extreme and I have visions of tripping in these, catapulting down stairs, dancing through my head. They’re another poster child for the “Look at us. We’re subscribing to the Shoe Extremism trend. Here, let us endanger your safety to prove it” movement.

I admit I am myopic when it comes to fashion. I'm young. I am only well versed in approximately the last half decade in fashion; I don’t presume to be an expert on trends. But clothing seems to be taking a new direction. Whether this leads to good or bad things, we shall see. I have hope that Nicolas Ghesquière will carry us through.

Friday, March 7, 2008

031. God's work, or so they say: Imitating the Imitation.


I remember the high-waisted jeans that Scarlett Johansson wore in an Imitation of Christ fashion show perhaps a year ago; I am also familiar with the infamous garment that proclaimed "Bring me the head of Tom Ford." But I wasn't paying much attention when IOC made its debut, and I was equally preoccupied with other things when it made its exit. And having now done some research on the label, I still don't find the salvaged and reworked clothing that constitutes Imitation of Christ's collection particularly appealing, although I am intrigued by the intellectual component of the subversive enigma that was Tara Subkoff's fashion brainchild. (Of course, how much the label was genuinely contraculture/contratrend is open to speculation. Any capitallist byproduct has its marketing strategy; and every revolution derives from a larger fabric, no pun intended.)

In any event, it was only when Refinery21 announced the premiere of IOC's diffusion label, Imitation by Imitation of Christ, that my curiosity was piqued. Aesthetically, the line resembles and yet is quite different from its extinct predecessor. In fact, Subkoff surrendered the reins to another designer, Kasia Bilinski, and has since gone off to work on other projects.


Imitation does not use vintage materials, nor does it have quite the same degree of high-end pricing as its predecessor, although it is also trying very hard to become a niche label and is available at only a few select locations (I haven't been able to find it online anywhere). To me, the simplicity of the pieces resemble IOC's (and are alleged to be produced meticulously with much attention to detail) and garments are in muted tones and solid colors. Imitation's innovation lies, in my opinion, in the sheer fluidity (the organic-ness) of the clothing. When examining the spring collection, I noted the hanging strips of cloth adorning the tops, the looseness of the garments, the freedom implied in the design. But there is also the eerie sense of being watched, of being followed, both in this and the fall-winter collection. The models are mostly alone in open spaces, unaware of the camera's presence, yet, they are dogged by the lens of the camera. This sends a very enigmatic message.


It's difficult to pinpoint the purpose of Imitation. The films used to publicize the label are produced by a studio called Dissent Films, and the artwork and design are clearly engineered to cultivate an "outsider" vibe, yet the brand is clearly also "luxury" - no matter how you look at it, Imitation is exclusionary - not that that's necessarily a bad thing. I wonder how long Imitation will stay around, whether its mission and design aesthetic will change dramatically, and who the real client base are for this label.

Imitation by Imitation of Christ, as selling at select stores worldwide.

Monday, March 3, 2008

030. Target's Go Collection a Go?

I'm not big on retail-giant attempts to bring designer clothing to the masses. For one, it's difficult to translate the unusual garments that designers like Isaac Mizrahi are famous for into something that people who shop at Target would want to wear. And for another, when the clothes cost so little, it's difficult (in fact, impossible) to replicate the fine workmanship that most good RTW - or couture, for that matter - possesses. And lastly, you can't mass-produce exclusivity. It defeats the point. But anyway.

I went to Target yesterday to check out the launch of the store's newest Go collection: the Jovovich-Hawk line. I was antsy about the collection, because I had looked at preview samples online and wasn't as excited as I'd hoped to be about the designs. Jovovich-Hawk cultivates a feminine, frilly look that is difficult to translate into cheap fabrics. The dresses I was looking at were cute, but pretty average, the type of thing you'd see at a JC Penney or Macy's.

What partially redeemed the Jovovich-Hawk for Target line for me was the last dress I tried on: a lacy little dress in eggshell with detailing at the neckline, waist, and hem. The reason I liked it so much is because it was a perfect fit: I don't have much of a waist or hips, and the dress defined the shape of my body instead of rebelling against it. It's difficult to find a dress that suits me well, so that made me happy.

Jovovich-Hawk for Target® Chiffon Dress, $39.99

What I found annoying was the price. Although a cute dress, I don't honestly think it is worth $40. The material is not that fantastic a quality, and the design is not incredibly unique. It just happened to fit me particularly well. I'm sure I could find a similar dress for $25 for Forever 21. You're just paying for the Jovovich-Hawk label, on a Target tag no less.

Jovovich-Hawk for Target® Square-Neck Floral Dress, $39.99

From this picture, the dress above doesn't look particularly fantastic, but in person, the colors attract the eye. The muted palette is pleasantly intriguing. I was torn between getting this dress and the off-white one, but I finally decided on the latter because this flowery one is absolutely shapeless. If you're thin as a pole with no boobs, go for it - you'll look fantastic.

Jovovich-Hawk for Target® Linen Shorts, $26.99

The last item worthy of mention is this cute little pair of shorts. Somebody recently ridiculed the pleated ruffles, but I tried the shorts on and found the detailing adorably whimsical. The buttons are not really to my taste, but they're easily replaceable.

I also tried on some of the blouses the collection offers, but they have a pleat in the back that puffs it out and makes it appear as if you're a hunchback. Is it just me? Or do other people also have this problem? I suspect it's an error in design.

So, is it worth it to check out the Go collections by Target? Yes, if you're looking for a cheap designer fix. But don't expect anything stupendous--why would you? So if you don't mind that the clothes produced by fashion giants like H&M and Forever 21 are blatant, unsanctioned replicas of true designer RTW, I'd go there first, as they cost even less than the officially sponsored stuff.

Check out the real Jovovich-Hawk spring line on their official website. It's definitely worthy of notice.